10 of the best family days out near Nottingham

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Watersports, wildlife and adventure: things to see and do with kids around Nottingham

Robin Hood and his many adventures are not the only reasons to visit Nottingham and its surrounding countryside. Check out these great things to do with kids in the area...

1. National Water Sports Centre

Prepare yourself for a wet and wild outdoor adventure at the National Water Sports Centre. Active kids and teens have the choice of high ropes, a climbing wall and Segways on dry land. Or they can make a splash on the lagoon in kayaks and on paddleboards. For the fearless, there’s white water rafting in the rapids.

If that all sounds a bit too energetic, grab a tube and float away on the lazy river. Activities are available for children aged 18 months and up. Check the website for height and age restrictions.

2. White Post Farm

Kids from toddlers to pre-teens will be entertained throughout the day at this year-round attraction. Meet the traditional farm animals and super cute meerkats, wallabies and llamas. Visit in the spring to see newborn lambs and piglets.

Don’t miss the fun of sheep racing or a tractor ride if the weather permits. For inside activities there are play barns and an incubator room where fluffy newborn chicks are kept snug. Parents be warned: you might end up coming home with a new family member from the pet shop!

3. Nottingham Climbing Centre

There are nine walls and rooms designed for climbers of different abilities, including several specifically for younger climbers.

Instructors are on hand to talk you through the exhilarating experience of conquering artificial walls and overhangs. Kids can go along with parents on a Family Taster session, or with parents’ permission a Certified Competent Member of the Centre can supervise them. Climbing taster sessions for kids aged five to seven and seven to 16 years old run weekly during the school term. Also check the Centre’s website for school holiday climbing days.

4. Wollaton Hall

Image: Gordon Roach Photography

Batman fans will recognise Wollaton Hall from The Dark Knight Rises movie, which was filmed here in 2011. This grand Elizabethan mansion has been updated over the centuries and now houses Nottingham’s Natural History Museum.

The story of the house and the family that lived here is told through Cassandra Willoughby, who became mistress of the property aged just 17 years old in 1686. Her child-friendly tale will captivate young visitors and bring the house’s history to life. On the estate you can seek out the oldest cast iron glasshouse in Europe, the botanic garden and see the park’s herd of deer.

5. Wheelgate Park

Whether you visit on a hot day and need somewhere for the kids to cool down, or it’s tipping it down and you’re craving indoor fun, Wheelgate Park has got it covered.

Bring your swimming costumes and zip down the five waterslides of the UK’s largest outdoor waterpark. Challenge the kids to a race down the commando assault course. And meet the animals in the 10,000sq ft undercover family farm. There are nine zones with attractions to appeal to youngsters, from toddlers to teens.

6. Sherwood Pines

This uber family-friendly section of Sherwood Forest is a great day out with kids. Get off the beaten track on an all-terrain Segway tour, suitable for kids aged ten and up. Hire bikes for the whole family with even the littlest being able to come along for the ride with a tag-along. Or let your children play Robin Hood in the adventure playground.

You can also book on to bushcraft courses with the Forestry Commission to learn how to build a shelter, light a fire or purify water in the wild.

7. Attenborough Nature Reserve

Wildlife and nature lovers will be in their element at Attenborough Nature Reserve. Start your visit at the award-winning Attenborough Nature Centre, where you can pick up a seasonal spotting guide. Venture out on to one of the three nature trails to see what birds, insects and wildlife you can spy.

To find out more about the reserve’s transient wildlife population, join a walk with a ranger. Or stop and observe migratory birds and wildfowl from one of the four hides. Activities designed for kids happen throughout the year. Check the website for details and prices.

8. Newark Air Museum

You can spot up to 76 different aircraft at this all-weather attraction that occupies four covered display areas on a former World War II airfield. The museum tells the story of military and civilian aviation, as well as that of the old RAF Winthorpe base on which it sits. Budding mechanics can take a look at dozens of engines that powered historical planes and step inside the cockpit of different aircraft.

See World War II artefacts including a bouncing bomb in Lancaster Corner, and an exhibition about how the RAF Regiment was established to guard airfields during the war. The museum is volunteer-run so some activities are subject to change.

9. Belvoir Castle

There’s been a castle at Belvoir for nearly 1,000 years. The ancestral home of the Dukes of Rutland, after centuries of civil war and redesign it is now one of the country’s best examples of Regency architecture. Take a guided tour for a peek behind the scenes at the home of the current owners, the 11th Duke and Duchess of Rutland.

Go for a walk in the woodland gardens, parts of which were designed by iconic landscaper Capability Brown. His designs have only been implemented in the past decade, after they were rediscovered in the castle archives.

Explore the features and panoramic views envisaged by Brown on strolls taking between 20 minutes and two hours, depending on how far your little people’s legs can go. See if you can make it to the peacock sat on top of an obelisk – it keeps an eye on the castle from afar.

10. Great Central Railway

This vintage attraction is a must for steam train enthusiasts, young and old. It is the only double track, main line heritage railway in the UK and runs between Loughborough and Leicester – making it the only place in the world where full-size steam engines can be seen passing each other.

There are more than 30 steam and diesel engines at the railway, with some operational and others undergoing maintenance. Visit during school holidays when there are special events for families.

Purchase a day rover ticket for unlimited trips up and down the line. But don’t get so carried away that you forget to see the museum at Loughborough, which tells you all about the role of the railway, and the passengers and goods it used to carry.

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